|More old towns
||[Apr. 2nd, 2016|10:42 pm]
From Figeac we turned south again: time to pick up the thread of our journey from north to south, from the Channel to the Pyrenees (and beyond, to meet the ferry at Bilbao - but not yet). The road brought us to Penne, a village we first visited on a long ago walking holiday around the Gaillac. What I remenber most vividly is that at the end of a long, hot day, when we could see that we were near our destination, we realised that not only was it a long climb up to the village (the root of the name 'Penne' is the same as the element in 'Pennine' which means 'high, head'), the path was not an easy one, but involved scrambling over rocks up the side of the hill. We emerged, hot and dishevelled, into the main street, and were confronted by our host, M. Lacombe, who ran the village grocery store, and who had come out to look for us. Much has changed since we were last there, but what I remember as the grocery still bears the sign 'Lacombe, Chambres d'hôtes'. There are major restoration works in progress at the castle, which I remembered as a ruin and the site of a son et lumière presentation (of which I remember only that M. Lacombe assured us that there would be no problem finishing dinner before the presentation began, because his son Sebastien was on the sound desk). The archway which led to the square where the local weights and measures were on display was familiar, but the walk around the ramparts was new to me:
as was the courtyard with a view out over the hills where we lunched.
All the old towns, say my notes - Bassoues, Montcuq, Puy l'Evêque, Saint-Cirq Lapopie, Figeac - how have they survived? There are always some houses semi-derelict and for sale, and yes, some of the towns are more alive, some quieter and more abandoned, yet here they all are, one after another miraculously preserved.
Not to mention the bastides, which are technically new towns - but new towns built and fortified in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. We spent the night in Castelnau-de-Montmiral ('Castelnau' - that means Newcastle, doesn't it?) where we had a magnificent room at the Hôtel des Consuls (the 'superior room' pictured towards the bottom of the hotel's picture gallery, with its own ante-chamber, and beams everywhere. The hotel is on the arcaded square at the heart of the village:
And the following morning we came to Gaillac, to which the same applies, but in red brick.